Juliette Bains: Classic solution to summer social gap is music to my ears

Switching pop for opera at my new favourite outdoor concert.

Switching pop for opera at my new favourite outdoor concert.

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With summer pretty much over, lately I’ve been struggling to shake the feeling that something’s missing.

Looking over my summer checklist, I’ve ticked off going to Wimbledon, sipping pimms in the sunshine, watching the cricket at Headingley in utter bemusement, overindulging at the Leeds food festival, squeezing in a week’s holiday and hiding the usual ridiculous tan lines.

But in spite of all that, there was a gap in the social calendar this year that just couldn’t be filled. Then it hit me – there was no Party in the Park.

OK, I know some of you couldn’t care less for the tweenie-type outdoor concert.

But for a self-confessed pop music fan like myself, trundling to Temple Newsam was one of the highlights of the year.

During its run, I saw global stars like One Direction, plus bands such as The Script, Little Mix, JLS and The Wanted, who, in their prime, were all pretty big names.

The concert was perfect for unashamed pop tarts much like myself, who don’t fancy braving the muck and mud at Leeds Festival and would rather not splash out on a £200 ticket to see their more reputable acts.

Nah. A cheap day of fun in the sunshine with your mates and a load of pop stars was more up my street.

I’ve got lots of lovely memories from PITP that will last forever, and will even cherish the time I had to interview 1D after getting stung on the face, with my cheeks swelling up like a balloon.

So, like thousands of others, I was one of those who was more than a bit peeved and really disappointed when the concert got axed last year due to council spending cuts.

I suppose we were lucky to have an event that drew in so many big names for as long as it did – and for many years it didn’t cost us a bean.

But the question still remained: How was I going to get my cheap and cheerful music fix this year? A festival is definitely out – these days I just want to sit down and sip on some cider in comfort without cups of urine and bodily fluids being flung over the crowd.

Thankfully, last weekend I found the answer to my prayers when I scored some tickets to Classical Fantasia at Kirkstall Abbey.

I’d heard about it before but hadn’t ever been and, to be honest, I didn’t really think classical music would quite be the same as bopping to Taio Cruz.

Never one to pass up a new experience though, I roped in a friend, hastily constructed a makeshift picnic consisting of a trusty bottle of Blossom Hill, some chocolate mousse and a half-eaten bag of crisps before heading out to the Abbey.

Needless to say we were completely underprepared and looking around at everyone else’s civilised M&S picnics and Waitrose goodies, our small scraggly carrier bag of treats didn’t really cut the mustard.

Trying our best to blend in, we found a spot amongst the thousand of families and older people who had already bagged prime seats, our scepticism reaching its peak.

It’s a different crowd that attends a classical outdoor music concert. It wasn’t snobby, mind, just civilised.

There were no cups of wee being flung in any direction for starters, much to my delight.

But once the music started, our preconceptions were utterly blown away.

I had goosebumps when the orchestra were just tuning up, and was in tears by the end of the first half, as the fireworks went off during a pretty moving rendition of Nessun Dorma.

We were both stunned into silence and sat there open-mouthed with our chocolate mousses in hand.

It felt like you were a part of something special just by being there. So now I’ve found a new summer staple, it’s safe to say I will be back for more next year.

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